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Variation of Lightning and Convective Rain Fraction in Mesoscale Convective Systems of the MJO

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

Characteristics of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) in regions affected by the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) are investigated using a database of MCSs observed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for Earth Observing System (AMSR-E). Lightning occurrence detected by the World-Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN) is composited in a framework centered on the MCSs. During MJO active periods, MCSs are more numerous and larger, as the convective features persist and attain greater horizontal scales. Anomalies of the lifted index, derived from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim) fields, indicate that MCS environments are more stable during MJO active periods.

Over the Indian Ocean, Maritime Continent, and western Pacific, lightning density in an MCS maximizes during the time that the total number of systems begins to increase as the MJO is beginning to be more active, implying both more vigorous convection and less extensive stratiform rain areas at this transitional time of the MJO. The peak in MJO precipitation coincides with peak occurrence of interconnected MCSs with larger stratiform rain fraction, shown by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite, while composites of lightning frequency show that during MJO active periods the zone of lightning is contracted around the centers of MCSs, and flashes are less frequent.

Denotes Open Access content.

Corresponding author address: Katrina Virts, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, 408 ATG Bldg., Box 351640, Seattle, WA 98195-1640. E-mail: kvirts@uw.edu

Abstract

Characteristics of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) in regions affected by the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) are investigated using a database of MCSs observed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for Earth Observing System (AMSR-E). Lightning occurrence detected by the World-Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN) is composited in a framework centered on the MCSs. During MJO active periods, MCSs are more numerous and larger, as the convective features persist and attain greater horizontal scales. Anomalies of the lifted index, derived from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim) fields, indicate that MCS environments are more stable during MJO active periods.

Over the Indian Ocean, Maritime Continent, and western Pacific, lightning density in an MCS maximizes during the time that the total number of systems begins to increase as the MJO is beginning to be more active, implying both more vigorous convection and less extensive stratiform rain areas at this transitional time of the MJO. The peak in MJO precipitation coincides with peak occurrence of interconnected MCSs with larger stratiform rain fraction, shown by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite, while composites of lightning frequency show that during MJO active periods the zone of lightning is contracted around the centers of MCSs, and flashes are less frequent.

Denotes Open Access content.

Corresponding author address: Katrina Virts, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, 408 ATG Bldg., Box 351640, Seattle, WA 98195-1640. E-mail: kvirts@uw.edu
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